(CN) – A California appeals court has affirmed the conviction of a black woman who broke into her ex’s home to kill his wife and child while wearing a John McCain mask.
Deidra Allen, described in the opinion as “a jealous and spurned lover,” had challenged her conviction by a Los Angeles jury on the basis that the prosecutor had struck three black potential jurors because of their race.
“The argument fails because the peremptory challenges were race-neutral,” Justice Kenneth Yegan wrote for a three-judge panel. “After Prospective Jurors 6478, 8006, and 2342 were excused, two African-American women and an African-American man remained on the jury. An African-American man was also selected as an alternate juror.”
Crediting the state’s argument that race played no factor here, Yegan found that “the prosecutor excused Prospective Jurors 6478, 8006, and 2342 because they had close family members with mental health issues and could be sympathetic to the defense.”
The strategy was a solid one for the state because Allen’s “intricate plan to murder her boyfriend’s common law wife and three-year-old son … was so bizarre that the prosecutor was concerned that jurors would perceive appellant to be suffering from mental health issues and sympathize with her,” Yegan wrote.
In the months before the July 1, 2011, attack for which she was arrested, Allen had tried to turn her affair with Mynor Plato into an exclusive relationship.
Even though Allen confronted Plato’s common-law wife, Maria Vasquez, about the affair and left Vasquez voicemails in which she played recordings of her and Plato having sex, Vasquez and Plato reconciled.
Plato moved the family to Lancaster after Allen had someone tell him that she had killed herself. Allen turned up in their new city, however, calling Plato incessantly, visiting him at work and claiming to be pregnant with his child.
On the morning of her arrest, Allen forced her way into Plato’s home after he left for work.
In addition to the McCain mask, Allen was wearing a white jumpsuit, a fake baby bump, gloves, a wig, sunglasses and construction utility belt.
She struck Plato’s cousin in the face with a toy gun, but she was outnumbered.
The cousin and another couple managed to restrain Allen while Vasquez called 911.
Investigators found that Allen had been carrying a plastic bottle filled with a white liquid that turned out to be a mixture of Ambien (zolpidem) and morphine.
Allen had also brought a handcuffs, a digital recorder and a clipboard with notes into the home.
She had a rental car parked outside with tape over the license plates and vehicle identification number. In there, sheriff’s deputies found various incriminating evidence including Allen’s purse, a receipt for the McCain mask and a prescription for the zolpidem.
There was also video of Allen and Plato having sex, sonogram videos of a pregnant woman, and a recording with directions in Spanish for Vasquez to drink the liquid in the plastic bottle and then call Plato to say she could not live like this anymore.
To cap it off, the recording ended with a checklist Allen had prepared for herself, describing her plan to smother the toddler once Vasquez was drugged, then kill Vasquez to make it look like a murder-suicide.
Convicted of premeditated attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary, Allen is serving two concurrent life sentences plus seven years in state prison.
In affirming those convictions Wednesday, Yegan noted that “the prosecutor’s articulated rationale … [for the peremptory jury strikes] is not only reasonable, it is consistent with the stated goal of procuring an unbiased jury that has no experience with mental health issues.”
The ruling notes that the prosecutor also excused a white man and a white woman from the jury.
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